E&Y bucks trend with expansion in Chicago

The legal network of Ernst & Young (E&Y) has expanded its US operations against the prevailing trend of receding international networks at accountancy-tied firms

E&Y's New York-based associated firm Donahue & Partners has opened a new office in Chicago, despite the Sarbanes-Oxley regulations prohibiting the accountants from providing both audit and non-audit services to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)-registered clients.

The office will handle foreign direct investment (FDI) clients requiring advice on inward or outward investment. It will be run by Dutch partner Remco van der Kroft and will be staffed with a four-lawyer Dutch-qualified team working alongside one US partner.

Van der Kroft said that prior to Sarbanes, “SEC-registered audit clients were a significant part of our business”. However, the firm has now refocused on E&Y's non-audit clients.

Van der Kroft said Chicago was chosen because “we tend to follow the main offices of E&Y, and Chicago is a major hub”.

E&Y's other allied US law firm McKee Nelson was one of the firms criticised by the US Congress Joint Committee on Taxation last week for “complicity” with Enron. The firm, a tax and asset-backed securitisation specialist, was previously named McKee Nelson Ernst & Young, but dropped the branding affiliation as the US regulatory environment toughened.